|Panthers humbled in all phases with 52-21 loss to Pittsburgh|
|Steelers too explosive in national TV game|
|Published Friday, November 9, 2018 2:00 pm|
Inept execution of fundamentals cost the Carolina Panthers in Pittsburgh.
Their three-game winning streak came to an end with a 52-21 loss at Heinz Field Thursday, in which the Panthers dropped to 6-3 while the Steelers improved to 6-2-1. Pittsburgh victimized Carolina’s secondary and contained what had been a versatile offense coming to life under coordinator Norv Turner.
“It comes down to guys trying to do more than they needed to do,” coach Ron Rivera said Friday at a press conference at Bank of America Stadium. “We had a couple situations early on where guys are trying to make more out of something, and unfortunately it cost us.”
Running back Christian McCaffrey’s drove Carolina’s offense with 14 carries for 77 yards and a touchdown, as well as five receptions for 61 yards and two touchdowns. Despite scoring on their opening drive for the first time this season, everything turned sour for the Panthers when Pittsburgh took possession. JuJu Smith-Schuster beat Panthers cornerback James Bradberry on Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s first pass of the game for a score. Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newtown threw an interception, which linebacker Vince Williams returned for a touchdown on the following drive.
Carolina’s pass rush, which had caused chaos for opponents in recent weeks, was neutralized against Pittsburgh. Julius Peppers produced one sack compared to Pittsburgh’s five sacks of Newton.
“When you can mug the front, and put six different players [at the line of scrimmage] and still stack a safety behind, tell me who is coming,” Rivera said. “That’s the hard part, and that’s the thing that these guys have to work on. It’s being able to recognize certain things. When they do something that is a little different or a little new, you’re going to have those types of things happen. It’s difficult to sit there and say, ‘oh well, you should pick it up every time.’ It’s why these defenses are designed.”
The Panthers front seven did little to alleviate the pressure on the Panthers’ secondary. Safety Eric Reid’s ejection for a tackle on Roethlisberger only added insult to injury. Reid, who was also subject to random drug testing following the game, has been selected five times since signing with the Panthers.
“I can’t tell you about the drug testing,” Rivera said. “That’s nothing to do with what I have to deal with. I’m not in agreement with what the decision [to eject Reid] was. I get the penalty. I don’t get the ejection. I’m going to ask for an explanation as far as that’s concerned.”
Carolina’s next game is in Detroit on Nov. 18. The Lions are last in the NFC North at 3-5 as they head to division leader Chicago (5-3) on Nov. 11.
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